Taiwan has reported a drop of 60 percent in the bluefin tuna catch this year after a proposal to ban trade in the fish was rejected at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in March.
So far this year, Taiwan has caught 1,141 bluefin, representing a 60 percent drop compared with a catch of 2,821 in the same period last year, Fisheries Agency Director-General James Sha (沙志一) said.
At the Donggang fish market in Pingtung County — the nation’s main port for tuna — fishermen have only caught 795 bluefin so far, a drop from 2,132 in the same period last year, he said.
Because of the decline, the wholesale price of the fish tripled from the NT$200 to NT$300 per kilo it fetched last year to between NT$600 and NT$800 this year in Taiwan, Sha said.
An alarm has been raised about declining fish resources in one of Taiwan’s bluefin tuna fishing areas, which ranges from Japan’s Ishigaki Island to the Bashi Channel and the eastern coast of the Philippines, said Hsu Chien-chung (許建宗), a professor at National Taiwan University’s Institute of Oceanography.
His research shows that in this area, the bluefin catch density has plummeted from 0.8 to 0.6 bluefin out of every 1,000 fishing net hauls 10 years ago to 0.2 now.
The average age of the fish caught has also been dropping — from nine years old on average, with an average length of 240cm, to about seven years old, with an average length of 220cm, Hsu said.
“The bluefin being caught are getting younger and younger,” he said.
Moreover, the volume of bluefin in every age group is dropping, Hsu said, adding that over the past decade, no mature female tuna bigger than 262cm had been seen in Taiwan’s bluefin catch.
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